Iran rejects West's economic incentives

Says it will expand, not halt, enrichment. Teheran official: Expect "good news" on nuclear program.

iran nuclear 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
iran nuclear 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iran rejected recent European overtures to halt its uranium enrichment program in return for incentives, saying it will continue to expand, not halt, its nuclear program, the government spokesman told reporters Saturday. The European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said last month that his bloc was open for further talks with Teheran to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions despite UN Security Council approval of a third round of sanctions. "Iran does not trade its rights in return for incentives," government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters. "The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn't need incentives from Europe to obtain its rights." Though the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran last month for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, the foreign ministers of the US, Russia, China, Britain and France, along with Germany, also pledged to enhance a 2006 package of political, security and economic incentives to Iran in return for a halt on uranium enrichment. But Iran has refused, dismissing a third round of sanctions imposed March 3 as "worthless" and "based on political motivations." Elham, however, said Iran will still talk to Europe about its nuclear program. "Iran has always stated that the door to dialogue and interaction with the outside world, European or non-European is open," he told reporters, while making it clear that the six nations can't replace the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency in dealing with Iran's nuclear rights and obligations. "Dialogue doesn't mean creating new institutions to replace legal bodies. We do not accept replacing the IAEA [with some countries which themselves possess nuclear weapons]," he said. Diplomats in Vienna told The Associated Press Thursday that Iran has assembled hundreds of advanced machines reflecting a possible intention to speed up uranium enrichment. One diplomat said more than 300 of the centrifuges have been linked up in two separate units in Iran's underground enrichment plant and a third was being assembled. He said the machines apparently were more advanced than the thousands already running underground. The location is significant, since the aboveground site at Natanz is for experimental work and the underground facility is the working enrichment plant. Elham said the government hoped to offer "good news" to the nation on Iran's "achievements" on April 8, declared as the National Day of Nuclear Technology. It refers to April 8, 2006 when Iran for the first time enriched uranium at Natanz.